FILE – In this Friday, June 7, 2013 file photo, Ohio State University president Gordon Gee gives his retirement speech during a board of trustees meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State is one of several major universities seeking a new president. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)
Gordon Gee retires Monday after six years as Ohio State University’s president — his second stint at the university — and 32 years as a president of five major universities: West Virginia University, the University of Colorado, Ohio State, Brown and Vanderbilt. Some of the highlights and lowlights of his tenure:
1981: Gee becomes president of West Virginia University at age 37, one of the youngest presidents of a major university. The school plays for the national football championship during Gee’s tenure, and it is here Gee begins a close association with college sports, helping recruit many of West Virginia’s top athletes.
1985: Gee arrives at the University of Colorado where he is popular enough that an unpublished poll predicts he could become governor whether he ran as a Democrat or Republican. While at Colorado, he has to explain why he provided large bonuses to four vice presidents after consulting only with the board chairman. He also draws heat for giving football coach Bill McCartney a 15-year contract in 1990 as Gee left for Ohio State, a decision vindicated later that year when Colorado wins the national championship under McCartney.
1990: Gee becomes president at Ohio State as the school strives to shed its image as a last-resort public institution. Gee works to raise admissions standards and reduce the amount of remedial classes the university is offering. He also pushes for more financial aid resources to keep a diverse student body.
1992: In a moment of frustration over then-Gov. George Voinovich and higher ed funding, Gee lets slip to a student newspaper reporter, “The governor’s a damn dummy.” Voinovich laughs it off and the two become allies in the push for more education dollars. The same year, Gee raises eyebrows when he called the 13-13 tie after the Ohio State-Michigan football game “one of our greatest wins ever.”
1995: Gee dismays supporters at Ohio State when they learn he has accepted the top job at the University of California system, a decision he rejects at the last minute.
1997: Once again, Gee is popular enough that his name is floated as a possible Democratic candidate for Ohio governor. Gee leaves for Brown University the same year, promising it is the last president’s job he intends to hold, then jumps to Vanderbilt after only two years, saying Brown wasn’t a good fit.
2000: Gee begins raising record amounts of money at Vanderbilt— including $1.75 billion in construction dollars. He increases the endowment by almost 50 percent, to more than $3 billion. He also generates controversy when he disbands Vanderbilt’s athletics department, saying athletics had become too separate from the rest of the university.
2000: Gee makes the cover of The Chronicle of Higher Education under the headline “The Professional President.”
2006: Vanderbilt’s governing board tightens financial oversight after lavish spending at Gee’s school-owned historic mansion, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The same article says Gee’s wife smoked marijuana at the couple’s official residence. The two divorce in 2007.
2007: Ohio State rehires Gee. His second time around, Gee reorganizes Ohio State’s arts-and-sciences division, switches the school from a calendar based on quarters to one arranged by semester and oversees the privatization of the university’s parking services to raise $3.1 billion in investment earnings.
2010: Time Magazine names Gee the country’s best college president. The same year, he apologizes for criticizing other big-time football programs for having a schedule equivalent to playing “the Little Sisters of the Poor.”
2011: Gee makes new unwelcome headlines when he quips at a news conference that rather than firing his embattled football coach he is worried that the coach “doesn’t dismiss me.”
2012: Gee apologizes for saying that coordinating the school’s many divisions is like running the Polish army, a remark that a Polish-American group calls bigoted.
2012: At a December meeting of the university Athletic Council, Gee criticizes Notre Dame, refers to “those damn Catholics” and pokes fun at the academic quality of other schools.
March 11: University trustees instruct Gee in a letter to take steps to address his penchant for uncouth remarks and warn him he could be fired for another transgression.
May 30: The Associated Press first reports on Gee’s remarks at the December meeting.
June 4: Gee announces retirement.
Source: AP Research